Easton Parking Changes Unwelcome, Survey Says

The issue of how to best serve everyone when it comes to metered street parking is proving to be a difficult one.

Easton business owners and residents like the idea of parking meters that take credit cards.

What they don't like: changing the meter-enforcement hours, enforcing meters on Sunday, and most of the other changes mentioned in the city's recent parking study.

That's according to a survey on parking issues discussed Tuesday evening at the city's second public forum on the parking study by . 

Balancing the varying needs of the city, businesses and residents when it comes to , and there's still not a lot of consensus on the issues.

While most of the 15 or so members of the public seemed in favor of reducing rates at the city's parking garage to encourage more people to use it, the possibility of meter rate hikes and other issues were largely contentious.

But the city says it needs more revenue to support programs such as the and the Ambassadors, and to buy and maintain the meters and parking garage itself.

“We can go into it and say the Farmers' Market makes 'x' amount of money, but how much do you think it costs the city?” asked Mayor Sal Panto. “We can't just keep doing the positive things without some sort of revenue.”

Diane Bower, owner of craft gallery, speaking on behalf of Main Street, the Easton Business Association and the Two Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce, said the survey showed a number of changes would be detrimental to their members and businesses in the area that parking is intended to serve.

On the list were:

  • The possibility of to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., instead of the current 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Raising the rate from 50 cents per hour to 75 cents or a dollar 
  • Implementing a two-hour limit for street parking. Even a three-hour limit, Bower said, would hurt a number of businesses and discourage people from strolling and browsing.

Citing the survey, answered by 65 local respondents, she said the addition of meters that take credit cards would, however, be welcome.

Panto said increased hourly rates may be necessary to pay for smart meters with the capability of accepting credit cards.

“What I'm talking about is credit card meters. I really like them,” he said. “But they're three times the price of regular meters. Someone needs to pay for that.”

Councilman Ken Brown opined that the suggested changes are likely necessary, even if they are unpopular.

“Change is hard, but change sometimes has to be done,” Brown said. “People have to understand the city is a business as well, and it needs to be run that way.”

While city officials seem likely to implement a number of Desman's recommendations, however unpopular, on the issue of time limits, they seem likely to be more flexible.

“I don't have a problem with three hours,” Panto said. “I have a problem with unlimited (time), because I know the issues.”

He added that the three hour limit shouldn't be a problem, despite that some businesses have formerly stated they have clients and customers that stay longer.

“Today's public doesn't walk around any more. They go where they're going, and they leave,” he added.

While some council members seemed unhappy with the business organizations' survey, Councilman Jeff Warren said he felt it was a good thing.

“Doing a survey is a very positive thing, I do believe that...I'm very sympathetic. I've talked with those business owners that are just getting by,” Warren said. “I unfortunately don't think we're going to make everyone happy...We're tasked with doing whatever is best for the city.”

He promised to keep everyone in mind when making a decision in voting on the matter.

Councilwoman Sandra Vulcano said she'd like to hear suggestions for solutions from the public.

“We're facing a very tough year and losing some programs,” she said. “We tried ...and . Please come back and give us some solutions because we know these programs work.”

Resident and business owner Laini Abraham said some solutions, such as a parking benefit district and a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with College have been presented, but council seems not to consider them.

“Please do not say that we haven't brought up solutions. We have,” she said. “Do you think nobody remembers this stuff?”

She added that raising taxes, however unpopular, is an option, along with implementing metered street parking into other commercial areas in the city.

“If you have to raise taxes, then raise taxes. At least it's honest that way,” Abraham said.

The question of where the revenue increased meter rates was also raised.

“We've heard (this is supposed to be) revenue neutral and now we're hearing we're going to raise money for Main Street and Ambassadors,” Bower said. “That's a little confusing.”

“The bulk of this money is directed at the operations of a (smart meter) system,” said city administrator Glenn Steckman.

Several people also questioned why the city seems to want to make the changes before a comprehensive parking plan is written.

“One of the reasons I felt it was important was...I don't want it to be part of revenue discussions and become part of the budget process,” Panto answered. “The only thing I've made my mind up on is that it needs to be changed.”

Panto said the city will revisit the issue again when Desman's final report is delivered, and that he expects the city will hold another hearing for public input on the matter shortly thereafter.

No date has been set, but he estimated it will happen towards the end of June or sometime in July.

Jon Geeting May 23, 2012 at 12:06 PM
A few points: One thing some people seem to be misunderstanding is that higher parking turnover is better for business than lower parking turnover. People don't like it when employees hog spaces all day that could be used by customers. It's the same thing for other customers. It's bad when anybody hogs the spaces for too long. Higher prices would mean higher turnover, and that's better for business. The other issue is that with smart meters and variable-rate pricing - where rates rise during busy times, and drop during slow times - you don't need to have a maximum time limit. But the trade-off would have to be that the meters are always running. So what do people like more - no time limits, or meters shutting down early? I think no time limits is clearly the better option. You'd raise more revenue from the dinner and bar crowd. The parking benefit idea from Laini Abraham is the best option though. Parking is always going to be a political problem unless there's a constituency for pricing curb parking. Creating a parking benefit district would create that political constituency, since people who live next to blocks with curb parking would want the money. This would also be a constituency for more development, since more businesses opening would mean more meter revenue for neighbors.
Jimmy Madden May 23, 2012 at 01:24 PM
“We can go into it and say the Farmers' Market makes 'x' amount of money, but how much do you think it costs the city?” asked Mayor Sal Panto. “We can't just keep doing the positive things without some sort of revenue.” WHAT DOES IT COST THE CITY?
louis kootsares June 27, 2012 at 04:23 PM
not to worry i know the mayors trip to israel has solutions to most of these problems and he will use them
Bob Rabinsky November 08, 2012 at 12:54 PM
If Sandra Vulcano and the mayor want allternative options DROP THE AMBASSADORS. This program is the most useless thing the city has done. ( almost) Ambassadors walking around pretending to sweep buts. WHAT A INCREDABLE WASTE OF MONEY
Valerie J. Smith February 21, 2013 at 07:30 PM
My son lives in Easton and we drive over 200 miles to visit him and can't find parking or have to continue putting money in the meters. Why not have a visitors permit for parking for people who visit the area on a regular basis. I am sure people that visit Lafayette College would appreciate a pass too. You could charge a set price per day. I would love to visit my grandchildren more often, but the parking is always a problem.


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